Day after day, a familiar pattern plays out in schools and among families all across the world. The parents go to work. The children go to school. The children are told to get good grades and work hard on their studies so that, eventually, they can have a good career somewhere with a company that will hire them. Their good grades will pave the way for their future career working for someone else.
In the technology field, kids will focus on math and science before going on to earn degrees and certifications in fields like engineering, computer science, and information technology. Companies may hire them for their skills in areas like programming and network administration.
Relief For Them, Not For Me
Their parents will heave a sigh of relief once their child is safely installed at a company that gives them paid time off, insurance benefits, and a pension or retirement fund. They’ll work for 30 or 40 years before retiring.
It might seem like not much could derail such a “safe” plan, right? Unfortunately, that is not the age we live in. Picking a company and building a career there for several decades has stopped being the norm for a variety of reasons.
Rarely is picking the safe bet a surefire way to an extraordinary career, particularly in IT. It often takes some amount of risk, whether it’s picking an unusual niche technology to focus on or obtaining a skill set geared more towards starting a company instead of working for one. Whichever way you choose, it’s likely friends and family members will have something to say about your decision.
Keep in mind that many people are risk averse; they would sacrifice an extraordinary career for the promise of a steady one instead. They are less focused on winning and more focused on simply avoiding loss.
But what about those risk averse people? Does that mean they are forever doomed to a dull, un-rewarding career? Not if you plan ahead. For those that are risk averse, you need to re-evaluate your stance. Playing it “safe” no longer means what it once did. Consider the following terms: layoffs; downsizing; right-sizing; de-layering; restructuring; forced retirement. However a company wants to put it, the fact is, people who once had jobs no longer have them.
In a world where these types of practices have become the corporate norm, is it really the “safe” bet any longer to follow traditional career paths?
People can cry wolf all they want, talking about how a company has repaid their loyalty and years of service with whatever lot they end up receiving. However, in this tough economy, the fact is, companies want to stay in business, and in order to do that, they often need to cut costs and the workforce is one area that often suffers as a result.
Stop Complaining and Take Control
Complaining about it doesn’t help; instead, being proactive and prepared is the new way to play it “safe.” IT is particularly susceptible to this practice, with many jobs outsourced to remote locations overseas.
The first thing a tech guru can do to play it “safe” in the new game, is to always be on the lookout for new opportunities. While it can be comfortable to stay at the same company for a long time, you should always be seeking new positions where you can grow.
While prior conventional wisdom dictated that those who move around a lot show too much disloyalty to hire, now, hiring managers want a diverse range of experience.
- Are you in programming now?
- What do you know about network administration?
- Do you have experience developing websites?
- What about mobile apps?
Particularly in the field of SAP, diverse experiences is necessary. Mobile and Web developers can find a number of opportunities working within SAP development teams to customize companies’ SAP systems, and may have new insights over someone who “grew up” in ABAP. Cloud computing and SAP HANA is also a new and emerging feature, and those individuals with niche experience in the field have many opportunities for leveraging their knowledge.
The jobs landscape is changing. Conventional wisdom in turn needs some updating. Preparing for a safe career and preparing for an extraordinary career are turning into paths that are one and the same; the difference will be those who are prepared to embrace it and those who are not.